Marcus Pacheco: Flying Under The Radar
Kelowna Rockets forward Marcus Pacheco returned for his second season with Kelowna looking like an entirely different player having grown a couple of inches, added nearly 20 pounds of weight and rocking a new number.
Last season Pacheco was one of three sixteen year old’s to crack the team, with the other two being Andrew Cristall and Caden Price.
Rourke Chartier, Austin Glover and Rielly Stadel were the last trio of first, second and third-round WHL Prospect Draft picks to make the team as 16-year-olds back in 2012-13.
Standing at 5’11, 163-pounds last September, he learned quickly how much of a difference there was making the jump to the WHL.
Limited to two games of CSSHL U18 Prep hockey at OHA Edmonton during the 2020-21 season due to Covid-19, he said that the speed and strength were the two biggest takeaways.
“I think it’s a huge change on and off the ice,” said Pacheco in an interview following practice earlier this week.
“You’re moving away from home at sixteen, playing with a whole different team against older guys. It was a great experience to get into the league at that age and experience it.”
In addition to his billet family, Pacheco thinks that having Cristall and Price around helped him ease into his rookie campaign.
“My billet family are more than I could ever ask for. They’ve done so much to help me.
“It was awesome having both Crsitall and Price here last year too, I knew both of them coming in having played against them growing up. It was a bit easier coming in as a rookie having them here to go through it with them at the same time.”
The Edmonton, AB, product appeared in 57 games for the Rockets last season, posting 14 points (3G, 11A), eight penalty minutes and a +2 plus/minus rating.
Whaaaaaaat a shot by Marcus Pacheco for his first @TheWHL goal!
— Kelowna Rockets (@Kelowna_Rockets) January 16, 2022
More familiar with the Western Hockey League style of play, Pacheco went home for the summer with a detailed training plan that included hitting the gym five days a week.
Coming into training camp last month he checked in at 6’0, 184-pounds. To nobody’s surprise, he ranked first in the Rockets fitness combine.
“Adding the weight and muscle was a huge part of my offseason, it was something I really worked on. It’s come to fruition throughout training camp and the preseason, you can see it in the corners. Being just over 180 now helps a lot when it comes to getting hit and making a hit.”
With Mark Liwiski ageing out of the Rockets program at the end of last season, Pacheco quickly scooped up his old number nine.
He said that he made the change from 18 because he had always worn the number nine growing up. It’s also the number of some of his favourite players including Gordie Howe, Maurice Richard, Paul Kariya, Mike Modano and Jack Eichel.
Coming into training camp, Rockets director of player personnel Terry McFaul told kelownarockets.com that Pacheco was his pick to have a breakout season.
“Marcus has all kinds of skill and is a phenomenal skater,” said McFaul. “All he needed was strength and weight, the strength will come with the weight. We’re starting to see that with him, he’s come back a little bit heavier and looks very comfortable. He was 5’9, 144-pounds when we drafted him and now he’s at least 6’0, 180-pounds. I think it’s going to be a breakout year for him.”
Wearing a new number and with his added height and weight, Pacheco posted a strong preseason for Kelowna.
Making the switch back to playing centre, he posted five points (1G, 4A) in five games.
Pacheco is poised to play a bigger role this year, he’s expected to grow on his 14 points from last season. During the preseason he saw time on the power play and the top six during the preseason.
“That’s something that’s always earned,” said Pacheco. “It’s nice to get that playing time under your belt. I have to take advantage of those opportunities when they come and keep it going.”
Expectations are high for him this season as he enters his first year of eligibility to be drafted into the NHL. With all eyes on Cristall and Price, it’s almost as if Pachecho is flying under the radar when it comes to media coverage. He said that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“We all love the spotlight, but it’s nice to not have it on you sometimes. I think I’m just focused on myself, I’m just here to do my job.”
Pacheco and the Rockets next home game is Wednesday, October 5th, when they’ll host the Victoria Royals.
Single game tickets for all Rockets home games will go on sale on Thursday, September 29th at Select Your Tickets. Tickets will be available to be purchased online through www.selectyourtickets.com, at the Prospera Place box office, or by phone at 250-762-5050.